Created in 2009, nearly 64 million raised, member of the FT 120 more than 900 customer references, nearly 225 employees, 10 offices around the world… Impressive figures, can you explain to us what you do at AB Tasty?
At AB Tasty we help digital teams (marketing or product teams) in all types of sectors (e-commerce, banking…) to continuously improve their digital assets (websites and mobile applications), to test and customise their message and therefore practice continuous improvement on their site. Meaning, improving the conversion rate, improving the overall digital user experience…
This is done through a solution divided into several products, and we have two main products:
- AB Tasty: the client-side for everything Front.
- Flagship: for feature management, and back-end modifications, product team, and tech.
In 2010, with my associate Rémi Aubert, we started with a service-focused agency based on traffic acquisitions. We were frustrated because our ad did not attract the right customers, and after a lot of research we realised that we could see how users viewing our site behaved through Google Analytics. That’s when we created an agency to understand how users behave and how to improve conversion rates.
Two years later, we needed a tool to give the marketing team more control and allow everyone to constantly test their sites. This is when we created the solution in 2012 and stopped our agency a bit later to focus on a software publisher.
When I saw your start-up in 2009, I thought you were setting up a digital consulting company at the beginning, not that you were going to set up a multinational software company like AB! With Rémi, had you detected from the start the size of this market and the fact that 12 years later the subject would still be as present in the digital world?
By 2012, the concept of AB Tasty already existed on the market. However, the ease of implementation and the customisation that goes with it did not exist. We wanted to facilitate and empower the digital teams, which at the time were extremely dependent on the technical teams. We created a revolutionary tool because everything was much easier.
Today, we are constantly working on simplifying digital marketing and product teams to speed up all the processes.
From a macro perspective, is this market competitive?
We are working on a very big market in the middle of a boom with many users that is evolving all the time, which makes us question everything to “test and learn”. On our market, there are a lot of companies on the digital analytics part where users can analyse their website, but not as many on the action part, which is optimisation, experimentation, and customisation.
We encourage our clients to test constantly, our mantra at AB Tasty is “I never lose, I either win or learn from my mistakes“ and this is what we often tell our clients as well.
You work on customer experience and improving conversion rates by testing solutions simply and effectively, I have the impression that the definition of Growth Hacking that we hear a lot about is close to that, is it a threat to you?
What is very challenging for us is that our personas evolve a lot, and new jobs are being created. During our process, we need to know who oversees the KPIs for our client’s site, which changes according to the size of the company, the product… So, we must adapt sales and marketing to our target depending on the company.
Let’s talk about your product. I heard Fleure Pellerin from Korelya talked about AB Tasty a few months ago as a company that has managed to create a product at the best level worldwide. Can you confirm? Tell us about what you started with and how you worked your product over the years to make it one of the best products in the world in your category?
There are more and more French companies being created worldwide, however, we have managed to create teams all over the world.
We started with Europe, at our first fundraising in 2014, we tested our tool to see if it worked in other European countries with POCs (Proof of Concept). We realised that we had incoming leads, that we were signing contracts in Germany and England from France. From a certain income level and after a whole year, we would open offices in the country. After testing we opened three new countries in 2016: Spain, UK, and Germany with small go-to-market teams. Then we tested the same thing in the US by selling contracts from France for a year. It worked, so we sent a small go-to-market team to the US. In September 2018, I joined the team in the US in order to expand the team and the market. Also, in the end of 2018, we did the same in Singapore to open an office and recruit over there.
To maintain the AB Tasty culture, we have always made sure that someone from our company in Paris opens a business abroad.
What would be your advice for a good product-market fit and to maintain that fit over time?
Our product fits all markets. What is interesting is that the American market is ahead of the game. The Flagship Tool for product managers came to the US before it came to Europe. The fact that we are in the US allows us to be ahead and beat the European market.
From an innovation / R&D and technical point of view, what were the mistakes you made, and what were your strengths?
My associate Rémi and I manage the company together. I manage the business, marketing, and partnerships. Rémi manages the tech and product side. We both manage finance and HR.
On the tech side, there has been a lot of different evolutions. Finding a balance between our three main challenges: customers, prospects, and vision, which has been quite complicated. After a lot of testing, we found a balance, on one hand, we have to satisfy the customers, not have too many glitches, and on the other hand, we have to maintain the tool. On the prospect side, you need new features, listen to the customer, be innovative. On the vision side, we have an innovation team working on tomorrow’s features.
In the technical team, we have an engineering VP who manages developers back, front, a data VP who manages infra and all the back office, an innovation VP who works on new features, algorithms, the automation of our product and a product team VP.
You have more than 1/3 of your staff working in Tech, in concrete terms we can find out which jobs you have and how are these Tech teams organised?
R&D (Data, innovation, tech, and product) represents about 30%.
What are the main technos on which you develop your platforms?
We often change, the main technologies are:
– React for FrontEnd
– Google Cloud Platform
You use IA and Integrated Automation on your platforms, can you tell me a little more about these uses, this tech? And the advantages they provide?
We recruited Hubert Wassner, who was a researcher in 2014, for our data. We decided very early that we had to be good at it, that we had to automate as much things as possible.
Hubert has a small team of data scientists with a lot of different data to process. He is working on NLP (Natural Language Processing), decisions’ Tree. Also, we were the first to use the Bayesian to calculate the test results. We constantly try to innovate on these parts.
Technologically speaking, what are your big challenges in the coming months and years at AB? Is the pace of recruitment still just as intense? What are the main profiles you are currently looking for and where are these positions based?
Despite the pandemic, we have a recruitment target of around thirty for this year. There are still some recruitments for the go-to-market teams, the APAC and US zones and the dev teams. However, there won’t be as many as the other years. We are reaching a good critical size.
A word on the current events, as an entrepreneur, how have you experienced this crisis since last March? From a human point of view, how have you managed this planetary impact by having teams all over the world and particularly in Asia?
In Asia everything happened a little earlier for our teams. They were confined before us, our deals started to freeze, and we didn’t really understand what was happening. Then, it happened to Europe and the US. However, our teams reacted superbly and luckily our investors followed us, didn’t let us down, and encouraged us.
During the crisis, we had to communicate a lot with the teams, we tried to do All Hands every month. Moreover, we didn’t feel the effects of the crisis too much at first and now we are starting to feel them a little bit more. But I remain very confident despite a few sectors where it remains complicated and especially as a digital business, we are much less impacted than others.
A fundraiser in full confinement is not so bad 😉 How are you experiencing the Covid crisis at AB from a business point of view, I have the feeling that your solution is becoming even more useful in a world where e-commerce is taking more and more space, am I wrong?
At the beginning of the crisis, we had the biggest use of AB Tasty in our history. For the whole first month, everyone started putting messages on their site, so we had a lot of work.
We have clients in all sectors (commerce, retail, banking, travel, media…). We depend on the budgets of our clients, there are sectors where, despite the crisis, everything is working well but there are others that must stop their contracts for a few months. So, we are impacted by the pandemic but not as much as others.
On the US side, I read an article by Réza Malekzadeh, President of FrenchTech, who said that the Silicon Valley was dead at the moment. From a market point of view, how are you experiencing this crisis?
Our market in the US is a little less impacted than the rest because business can leave but it comes back very quickly. The Americans are very resilient and know how to bounce back into the game very quickly and they already know how to work efficiently at distance. The American economy has taken a hit, but everything is going to change back to normal soon.
Let’s talk a little bit about you. Is it a subject or not the fact that you are a woman in a tech world, you feel isolated, have you suffered from it or on the contrary has it helped you?
The fact that there are two of us with Rémi, a man and a woman, I don’t feel isolated. We have very good relations with our top management teams and our employees. On top of that, I’m part of the Think Tank Galion Project, where we talk about this solitude, but I am not the only woman.
At AB Tasty we put women in the spotlight, which has given us good visibility. There are more and more women entrepreneurs, I have the impression and I think that everything will evolve very quickly.
How do you manage your family life and this omnipresent job, how do you manage to find a balance between the pro and the personal? Any advice on how to disconnect?
The problem is precisely this kind of vision. As a woman, the only thing you can’t change is pregnancy.
I am part of an expat community with my husband, and many wives have followed their husbands for a job and a little less husbands who have followed their wives. I have realized, we often ask men how looking after the children goes and we rarely ask women. This is a question my husband gets quite often because he followed me to the US and gave up his job to look after the children. Today he has a job but he’s the one who is the most in charge of the children. In our society, it should be normal that one person in the couple takes care of the children while the other takes care of them, it should not be surprising anymore. We must find a balance; it is not the problem of being a man or a woman.
I manage to disconnect; we are lucky to live by the sea. We go for walks in the evenings and at weekends. I party. I don’t have problems disconnecting.
Personally, what have been the greatest difficulties over the past 12 years, when you look at AB you get the impression that the curve is constantly rising, that every year is better than the past, do you really live on a cloud, or have you also experienced errors and difficulties?
I have had millions of difficulties. We have problems every day. In the end, the more problems you have, the faster you learn to take a step back, to anticipate and solve them efficiently.
For example, the fundraising was not at all easy. You have to disconnect from operations to focus on them, so you lose business. Also, we took too long to have G&A support teams, we handled everything with Rémi and had an HR and CFO much too late compared to the size of our company… Moreover, recruiting the top management team was very complicated to manage. We should have recruited a senior management team earlier. My pregnancies were also complicated. Rémi had to manage everything on his own. Every time, we realised, we learned, we solved. We have had a lot of difficulties and others to come but a lot of joy. We are very transparent with our teams; I try to be present at least once a month by video conference for all the teams around the world.
It may seem strange, but we also have a person who manages the culture of the company who will check that the corporate culture is lived. As a CCO, Chief Culture Officer, she manages the whole onboarding and unboarding part, defining our culture, verifying it is applied…
You have to be creative; you have to feel the culture of the company.
I know that you are quite attached to your team, to the internal culture and that you were a bit anxious to see your company grow and see your culture diluted or change over time, you managed to keep the AB spirit that characterizes you?
The culture of a company is so so important!
When there are about 15-20 people in an open space, when everyone is having lunch together it’s a shock to move on the same company to 30-40 people. That’s when you understand that the culture of your company needs to be written down and structured. That’s when we took out our values, to live them during the recruitment process and during the quarterly and annual interviews.
We have done a lot of things concerning our values, but we want everything we do to be in relation with them.
In concrete terms, what have you put in place to reinforce well-being and maintain this culture over time?
The words of the values have not changed overtime. But what we put behind them is evolving.
Our first value is customer satisfaction, so we have set up a rating system. Every day our customers rate the platform, and on Slack we have daily customer ratings. Customers rate 10-15 times a day, so if customers are not satisfied, we react directly and try to understand where the problem comes from.
We have managed to keep the spirit of AB Tasty all over the world today because the offices in APAC are managed by two people with whom we worked for a long time in France, in France it’s quite natural, in Spain we have had the same manager for several years… We also try to travel quite often, less this year, but despite the distance I try to keep it as alive as possible.
Quick questions before leaving us: Do you have any books to recommend on the managerial approach, the bizdev or any other book that has impressed you?
The A Method for Hiring, by Geoff Smart and Randy Street
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
What is the app on your phone that you recommend for everyone to have?
Is there a Tech company in Europe or in the US that inspires you particularly?
What are the news sources, the media you consult the most to stay connected?
If you had to advise to project leaders, to those who hesitate to launch and set up their company, what would it be?
Depending on your personality, set up the company with someone complimentary to you. You have to be open to meeting people and learning.